When the pure shapes sank
under the chirping of daisies,
I knew they had murdered me.
They combed the cafés, graveyards, and churches for me,
pried open casks and cabinets,
destroyed three skeletons in order to rip out their gold teeth. But they couldn’t find me anymore.
They couldn’t?
No, they couldn’t find me.
But they discovered the sixth moon had fled against the torrent, and the sea—suddenly!—remembered
the names of all its drowned.

From Fable of Three Friends to Be Sung in Rounds, Federico García Lorca*

Los Ausentes - The Absent Ones - re-stages a dinner table that appeared in the central pavilion of the 1976 Venice Biennial. Under the name Spain: Artistic Vanguard and Social Reality (1936 -1976), the curators proposed a transformation of the official historical narrative constructed over 40 years of Dictatorship. As a symbolic gesture, they staged an empty dinner scenario, with the names of missing and exiled artists and academics on placeholders of each seat.

This was a significant moment in Spain’s recent history. Gen Francisco Franco had just died and the Government was slowly transforming into a democracy. La Transición - the Transition - was a period of hope for the future, during which new political ideas flourished and a regained sense of trust in society and humanism thrived.

In order to build the grounds for a new Spanish Constitution that was to secure a lasting peace, an amnesty law was passed. Also known as the Amnesia Law, the bill pardoned serious crimes committed not only during the Civil War, but also during the long Francoist Regime, that prevented any prosecution of such crimes in the future.

The original text of the Constitution has not been substantially revised since its foundation in 1978, leaving many questions about historical memory and national identity - in a country composed of a complex amalgamation of languages and strong regional cultures - widely unresolved whilst surrounded by tensions of rising nationalist sentiments. While families of victims and the very few living survivors are still looking for answers, public acknowledgement and legal justice.

*Federico García Lorca was killed in 1936 by the Nationalist forces. Documents and witnesses seem to indicate his remains are in a location near his birthplace in Granada. However, after several efforts to identify him amongst a large number of other victims, it has not been possible to find the poet’s bones. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of victims murdered during the Civil War and during the Regime remain anonymous in unmarked mass graves across the country.